Luxury Redefined: Can Louis Vuitton, Gucci & Michael Kors Recover In the Wake of Decline?

Nowadays, if luxury’s your name, then subtlety’s your game. For some high-end fashion labels, monogrammed logos and over-sized symbols were once king – but now amidst drastic dips in sales, what was once definitively cool is now all fad, as the luxury consumer shifts back to more subtle representations of affluence. Among the effected, luxury labels Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and Michael Kors, are all rumored to have trekked back to the drawing board to coordinate a game plan for rebound as their product sales experience decline.  

  So what is credited to the dramatic decline? While strategists fault the economy, and others blame social media, many researchers claim the overall desire for individuality and luxe exclusivity is the key. June Haynes, a former executive at Valentino comments, “Today, it’s really about understated luxury.” Even more moderate luxury brands such as Michael Kors are feeling the pinch. According to reports, the lifestyle label experienced quite the dip, as sales dropped 6.7% recently in North America, causing much alarm amongst investors. Again, the lack of exclusivity was to blame.  

  Veteran retail expert Robin Lewis theorizes it best categorizing Michael Kors as the “trendy fashion brand” positioned for the “kiss of death.” “The seductive thing about the Kors-type of ‘hot’ trajectory is in the initial delight of consumers,” Lewis says. “[Then] all of a sudden, in a nano-split second, the largely young and trend-fickle consumer base wakes up and realizes the brand is slapped on everything and is being worn by everybody, everywhere. And, crash! Wonderful becomes awful. The brand stands for nothing for anybody – everywhere.” Sources recite that a fast expansion into a lifestyle brand, along with product offerings at the discount outlet, department store, and high end levels, led to more damage than good for the Michael Kors label – luring every type of customer into the brand, rather than creating an exclusive attraction.  

  As for Louis Vuitton and Gucci, brand reinvention is well under way but for slightly different reasons than Michael Kors. The Louis Vuitton and Gucci customer is more concerned with concealed luxury, rather than putting their wealth on display with bold and excessive logos. At a point where the U.S economy has gradually recovered from the recession, consumers at the upper-income level are less concerned with flaunting their status, and prefer to be discreet. Both luxury brands have hired new creative directors to band-aid the sales conundrum, in a hope to revitalize their stake in the market. Looking for fresh and innovative direction, both brands have opted to keep the iconic logo and monogrammed features, but will reinvent their image to regain the business of the elite luxury customer. Whether it’s less flash and more class, or an ultimate overhaul in conceptual individuality -- let’s face it. Subtlety and exclusivity in the terms of modern day luxury, are definitely the new black.    

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